Developer Takes Game Down Due To Piracy, But With A Twist
from the not-what-you-think dept
Perhaps like some of you, I follow Notch, the creator of Minecraft, on Twitter, and he frequently plugs other games he thinks are worthwhile (or not; see his Duke Nukem “review”). So it was with great interest that I read a tweet of his showing solidarity with the developers of a game called ProjectZomboid and their recent struggle with piracy. Naturally, I had to look into this, both because Notch’s recommendations are usually very worthwhile, and because, as a Techdirt reader, I wanted to see what all the piracy fuss was about. Given Notch’s previous statements about his lack of concern over “piracy,” it certainly caught my attention. As it turns out, and as the title of this post implies, the developers of ProjectZomboid had recently taken down the paid version of their game due to piracy.
Now, if you’re a regular reader and fellow Kool-Aid drinker I know what you’re going to say. I had a facepalm moment myself, since we often see misguided creators try to combat piracy by removing the only legal avenue to purchase their work online, thus ensuring that the pirated version is the only version their fans can get their hands on. But when I read more about their decision making, I found that their reasons had nothing to do with the typical, fallacious “every pirated copy is a lost sale” mentality, and instead were centered on a technical flaw in their distribution system that actually cost them money from pirated copies. Their news item about the take down made it quite clear that while they would, of course, prefer that people paid, they don’t see piracy as some kind of demon that sucks away their revenues:
Pirates have made a version of the game that auto-downloads Project Zomboid from our server whenever the player clicks an ‘update’ button.
We’ve always turned a blind eye to pirate copies, even on occasion recommending people who had problems with the legit version try a pirate version until the issues are resolved. We realise the potential viral benefits of pirate copies, and while obviously we?d prefer people to purchase our issue is not with those.
However, these ‘auto updating’ versions of the game could screw us completely. We have a cloud based distribution model, where the files are copied all over the world and are served to players on request, which means we are charged money for people downloading the game. Whether piracy actually amounts to lost sales we’re not going to get into. The possibility that it raises awareness and promotes the game cannot be ignored, but the difference is offline versions on torrents, which we’ve been largely unconcerned about, do not cost us real money, only potential money, and even then we can’t really guess at what the net effect is.
Those are the words of a developer who has gotten past the standard knee-jerk reaction to piracy and are starting to think about how it can be a benefit, which is something I always like to see. And after they took down the paid version of the game, they wisely put up a free tech demo in its stead to tide the public over until they can get a new distribution model set up.
All in all, their attitude toward the whole situation and their quality demo certainly worked on me, an IP “abolitionist”. I ended up forking over my ~$8 quite eagerly, and if you enjoy a good zombie apocalypse, maybe you will too.